Biological Contamination of Food

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  • 0:04 What is Biological…
  • 1:00 Biological Contaminant Sources
  • 2:15 Biological Contaminant…
  • 3:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Have you ever wondered where the biological contaminants of our food come from? Many blame animals for this but there's a lot more to it. Find out what biological contaminants are, their sources, and examples of many of them.

What Is Biological Contamination?

What do steak, bacon, really tasty vegetables, and fruits all have in common? The answer is they all have the potential for being contaminated with biological organisms. If you don't wash and cook them thoroughly, you're putting yourself at risk of potentially really serious infections. Let's find out what some of them are in this lesson.

What do we mean when we say biological contamination? More often than not, this term specifically denotes the contamination of food with microorganisms. Microorganisms are the living things we commonly need a microscope to see in detail. This means things like bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites.

You can argue that an insect found in food or even a rodent is a biological contaminant, and you'd definitely be right in many respects. However, biological contamination is more commonly seen specifically as microbiological contamination.

Biological Contaminant Sources

There are way too many microorganisms that can contaminate our food to go over them all, but you're about to get a good overview. Many, but not all, of these are transmitted via fecal contamination of our food. This feces may come from animals or humans.

For example, cow manure may contaminate milk. Human waste, such as that from sewage runoff, may contaminate crops. But human waste may contaminate our food without any sewage also. For example, if a restaurant employee doesn't wash their hands properly after going #2 and then handles the food you eat, you are being put at risk of an illness stemming from any microorganism in their gut.

However, some of the biological contaminants may be present in the meat or milk of an animal already, without any further need for fecal contamination, and if this product isn't properly cooked, you're setting yourself up for trouble. For instance, some parasites actually live inside the cells that make up the muscle of an animal. If you are lover of raw, rare, or even medium rare meat then you may be eating those parasites. Only by thoroughly cooking your food can you ensure that you kill all those microorganisms on or within the food you eat.

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